It was something out of a movie when we arrived at White Sands. I have seen deserts like this on TV before, and there’s a very good chance I’ve seen videos and pictures directly from White Sands but it was never anything I knew about until we started our trip from San Diego back home to New Jersey. White Sands National Monument is located just outside of the middle of nowhere and right before you get to the middle of somewhere. The middle of somewhere is also known as Alamagordo, a somewhat decent size town about 20 miles northeast of White Sands which is where we stayed. As you head towards White Sands on 70E you drive through a tremendous valley that stretches out as far as the eye can see. This place is such a desolate area that the US Army uses it as a missile range covering over 3,200 sq miles and 5 counties of southwest New Mexico. The monument is open daily, sunup to sundown, but they do have unexpected closures for missile testing so make sure you look into that before planning your trip. For hours and closures you can go here and here. Before we got to White Sands we read a couple articles about what to expect which proved to be incredibly useful. We found out that they allow you to sled down these sand dunes and you can purchase these sleds from the gift shop as soon as you enter the premise. We stopped in and paid $18 for the adult sled and I believe they sell children sleds for $10. Another dollar or two will get you some wax which I would highly recommend. The gift store will also buy back your sled when you’re done for $5. One thing we were not aware of was that most hotels in Alamagordo actually have a lot of sleds onsite and will let you use them for free. Unfortunately we didn’t check in until after our visit to White Sands, so we were one of the many tourists who just gave our sleds to the hotel since we had no more use for them. After making a quick stop at the gift store you proceed into the park, but not without paying the $10 entrance fee, luckily for us I had my national park pass which covers the entrance fee even though this is technically considered a national monument. The road into the park was about 6 miles one way. As you drive past the first mile it becomes a complete white out from the road to the sand dunes towering over you. There are plenty of places to pull off, park, and walk around, but my recommendation is to go to the very back of the dunes. The back section was recommended by the lady at the gift shop as the area with the largest and best dunes to sled down. Not to mention they also have a decent amount of picnic tables with overhangs to enjoy some lunch. Once we picked out a couple dunes to sled down, we hopped out of the car, grabbed our sleds and started the short hike up. The weather was a perfect 82 degrees and the sand was refreshingly cool as well as fine grained. We did a test run or two on some smaller and less steep hills but quickly progressed to the biggest ones we could find. A couple tips for those looking to get the most speed on these dunes:
- Use a lot of wax. We waxed up our sleds probably every other run and it helped a lot.
- Use the same tracks. Once you create a track keep riding down the same one as it will pack down the sand making for a faster and smoother ride.
- Lean all the way back. Put your butt all the way towards the front of the sled and the weight from your lower back in the back of your sled. We found dispersing your weight like this vs sitting straight up will give you a huge speed boost.